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Help for bears Nasko and Gabriela

Bear Gabriela at DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa
© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

FOUR PAWS has agreed to look after two bears in DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa while Plovdiv Zoo (Bulgaria) makes improvements to its keeping standards. Until recently, bears Nasko and Gabriela were kept in tiny, dark cages, on a cold and wet concrete floor. Plovdiv Zoo comes nowhere near to fulfilling the requirements laid out in the EU Zoo Directive, so it has been closed to the public since 2008. Recently the zoo received financial support from the city administration, and is now planning to renovate its bear enclosure and extend it to 3,000m². The bears can’t stay in their current enclosure during this work, so the zoo management asked FOUR PAWS for help.

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Gabriela and Nasko’s sad past

Living in captivity for years has left its mark on the two bears. 27-year-old Nasko suffers from abnormal behaviour patterns and apparently also from epilepsy. He circled endlessly in the small area of his former cage. The safety of that cage was also cause for concern, as it was in such a poor state that the bear could actually have broken free at any time. 18-year-old Gabriela has a very sad history. She started out in a Bulgarian circus, but as she was too difficult to train, she was simply given to the zoo. A few months after her arrival there, events took a nasty turn; in the breeding season she and Nasko came to blows. One of Gabriela’s front legs was so severely injured that it had to be amputated. Since then the two have lived in separate enclosures.

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

FOUR PAWS takes bears to DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa

This summer a FOUR PAWS team picked the bears up from Plovdiv, and transferred them to Belitsa. For the first few weeks, both bears remained in the inner enclosures to be monitored. Nasko in particular was very distressed and needed more time to adapt to his new surroundings. Finally, on 19th of September, he was released to the extensive area outside. Nasko has never seen grass or a natural environment in his whole life. He still shows some stress symptoms and it will take time until he is fully acclimatised. He is under close supervision by the FOUR PAWS team on site.


Fortunately, Gabriela took the transfer very well and was able to be released some days after the transport. She now shares an enclosure with some of Belitsa’s other residents, the bears Mima, Violeta, Vela, Seida, Natasha and Elena.

© FOUR PAWS | Hristo Vladev

Improvement of keeping conditions for bears

Plovdiv zoo has recognised the need to improve its keeping conditions, which is an important step towards improving keeping conditions for bears in Bulgaria generally. Nasko and Gabriela’s stay at DANCING BEARS PARK Belitsa (which will last at least until the end of October 2015) will spare them a lot of stress during the reconstruction work back in Plovdiv. FOUR PAWS will advise the zoo regarding the work, and will carefully inspect the results at the end. The zoo’s keepers will also receive special training.